What’s going to self-destruct first? Cruise or Message?
In recent times, it would’ve been hard to predict what was going to self-destruct first – the message, or, Tom Cruise. But your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to forget about couch-jumping cradle-robbing Hubbard-preachin’ Cruise, for just this once, and latch onto the utility belt of Ethan Hunt, super spy, as you grab the fuse by the tip and get blown away by what’s possibly this year’s most entertaining blockbuster.
Like Cruise himself (Oh, that’s right, promised to take him out of the equation didn’t I? – easier said than done I guess, considering his misshapen image of late), the “Mission: Impossible” series was in calamitous need of a makeover. Though the first film – directed by Brian De Palma – was good, and appreciably clever, it still seemed a little uneventful – even for 1996 standards. In essence, there was really only a couple of memorable scenes in it, and even those, didn’t blow anyone away (though the opening sequence is still the best of the three).
The sequel, released three years later, was a shambles – part of the reason why a lot of look back on the first film as gold – it was no more than a series of slowed-up action sequences – typical of director John Woo – without one ounce of storyline to support the lunacy of it all. It was, simply, more painful to watch than a pack of zebras wandering imperceptibly into an alligator pool.
Obviously willing to try anything to get this out-of-control loco back on track, Cruise put his utmost trust in a newbie, TV whiz-kid J.J Abrams (“Alias”, “Lost”), which involved giving the acclaimed small-screen veteran free reign to do essentially whatever he liked. And it shows. From the story to the characters to the cast (look for a few familiar faces from some of Abrams’ TV series) and crew – this is J.J Abrams movie, before it’s a Tom Cruise movie. (Contrary to reports, Cruise obviously doesn’t have an ego the size of Trump’s bank balance).
The semi-retired Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is called back into duty, when an agent friend (Keri Russell, of “Felicity” fame) goes missing. All signs of her whereabouts point to the lair of Owen Davian (recent Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no repentance and no scruples, whose planning nothing but big bad for the wonderful world. It’s going to take a lot more to catch the sucker though – he may be stout and slow, but Davian’s a tricky SOB – and not before Hunt’s fiancée, Julia (Michelle Monagahan) – who, by the way, has no idea that her partner is a spy – is thrown into the line of fire.
Abrams was always the right man for the job. Always. After all, his hit TV series “Alias” is nothing more than a souped-up scholar’s version of the 60’s TV series “Mission: Impossible” – what with it’s twists, turns, spies in disguise travelling the world scenario. And his template for the “Mission” sequel is essentially what an “Alias” movie would’ve been liked – only with the action cranked up to 11, the plot mechanics yanked up to 12, and the surprises surpassing 13. Only disparity being, of course, that they’ve had to insert Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character into proceedings. Now don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t feel like a could’ve-been once a stand-alone script that’s been retooled to fit a franchise, not at all, in fact it’s obvious it was always “Mission 3” – it’s just done the way Abrams would do it.
For the first time in the “M:I” series, Hunt has been written as a man, a human, someone with actual feelings and eventual bruises, rather than a puppet on strings – similar to Alias’s long-suffering lead sssh-agent Sidney Bristow, if you will. (In some respects, because of the more fleshy character, this feels like a different movie – something much better than the third chapter in a so-so film series).
The breath of fresh air works. It works a treat. Not only do we care about Hunt, and the rest of the characters – for once – but we’re given a truly gripping, not to mention very smart, plot to hook us in. But this isn’t all character and plot, no soirée; it’s just as much an out and out action extravaganza too. You’ll see some of the best-staged action sequences in a long time, here – possibly some of the best jaw-dropping sequences ever, in fact – and they’ll have you both hollering at the screen in joy and clasping your clammy fists tightly.
Bottom line: It’s a ride you can’t help but feel comfortable on. With J.J Abrams as it’s driver, “Mission: Impossible 3” is the smoothest and most enjoyable jaunt in eons. It’s also one of the best films of Tom Cruise’s career – runs circles around that over bloated mess, “War of the Worlds”, for a start – and speaking of which, he is a marvel in this, if you’re not truly under his spell again by film’s end…. you’re related to the Kidman’s.
It’s common knowledge that Cruise likes to bring in a different director each time for these films, but let’s throw that rule out the window and hand this series over to Abrams, hey? Not only is he the man to save Tom Cruise, movie star, but also he’s quite possibly the man to get us back in the cinema.
Reviewer : Clint Morris